Oct 18, 2014

Apple Orchard Field Trip

This week we took a field trip to a local apple orchard.

They each had at least one "best" friend there and they ran around, picked apples, went on a hayride, slapped mosquitoes, and generally had a great time.

Oct 16, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Apologia iWitness

One of the main goals my husband and I have for our kids' education is to teach them to think. We don't want them to be followers, believing something just because they were told it is true. We don't want jumping on every idea or argument that sounds good or feels good. We want them to sift through the information, sorting through the propaganda, the emotion, the rhetoric and reach an intelligent, intellectually honest conclusion. And our recent review product from Apologia Educational Ministries has helped with this goal. We reviewed a set of three books: iWitness Biblical Archaeology ;  New Testament iWitness; and Old Testament iWitness.

Even when they were very small, I taught my children that there are people who believe differently than we do. There are people who do not believe that the Bible is a true historical account of facts and events. I have often explained their viewpoint, rebutted it with our viewpoint and have never shied away from the fact that there are some things we simply don't know for sure who is right. Like it or not, there are some things we have to accept on faith.

Now that they are a little older, my husband often watches documentaries with the kids. Those historical archaeological shows that discuss findings that quite often relate to the Bible. They love to watch and talk about these shows, but of course, the issue is that they are always slanted toward the opposing viewpoint.

I was delighted to find this set of books from Apologia that presents similar information from the slant of our worldview. The reading level for these books is 11 years old and up. I read them aloud to my crew of 7 to 11 year olds and they were all able to follow along quite easily.

These books are paperback, but they are beautiful! Each two-page spread is a section of information. The pages have a old-fashioned scrapbook feel to them. The text is written in snippets, divided onto what looks likes antique paper so that it feels like a journal of sorts. These are layered around photographs of actual archaeological finds, paintings, and source material. This effect engaged and intrigued my kids. They enjoyed just looking and looking at the pages as I read.

 Old Testament iWitness answers the questions: Who wrote the books of the Old Testament? How did they come to be gathered into one book? Who decided what writings went in and what did not? Has the Scripture changed over the years or has it stayed faithful to the original? How do we know the Old Testament is historically accurate? These were questions that I, a kid raised in the church had asked many times over the course of my life. I honestly believe that most Christians these days have no idea of the answers. I enjoyed being able to read through this book with my own children so that they are now know such things as: how the scribes copied the manuscripts; what the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, and the Torah are; who wrote each book, when, and why; and oh, so much more!  This book was packed full of information about the Old Testament and why we should believe it is the inspired word of God.

New Testament iWitness explores the same sort of questions about the New Testament. This book starts by explaining how books were "chosen" to be part of the New Testament. The surprising answer is that they weren't chosen at all! But rather all the books in the New Testament fit a predetermined criteria that all Christians understood a divine teaching had to have. I found this fascinating. It was certainly information I did not already know! It also addresses the reason the Bible can no longer be added to. It also tells about rejected books, creeds, the apostles, the problems with copying manuscripts by hand and so much more.

 iWitness Biblical Archaeology was probably our favorite. It fit right into what we are studying in history as it told us about different archaeological finds that have backed up and proven the Bible to be true. It moves chronologically through history, starting with the Flood, various flood myths, and the hunt for the Ark. It discusses Egypt and the Exodus, King David, King Hezekiah's tunnel, the Dead Sea Scrolls and many topics revolving around Jesus' life.

They were easy for us to use. I simply added them to our "Creche Conference" time. I read aloud a couple of pages a day (sometimes more if the topics flowed well and the kids' interest remained high) and then we would chat a bit about what we learned. They would pore over the pictures and ask a lot of questions. They were perfect for providing the information I wanted my kids to have about the authenticity of the Bible.

 Each book is $14. They are thin books, but each one is literally packed with information. They were a definite hit in our family.

This is what the kids had to say:

Kaytie: It was interesting because it used real facts to prove that the Bible is true. I liked the pictures. I like that the printing looks like handwriting so that it looks like a journal. 

Nate: I liked it. It was interesting. I liked learning about how archeology has proven the Bible.

Daniel: I liked it because the pictures helped us understand what it really looked like. 

Abbie: I like it because us information about the Bible. Like where the Ark might be. 

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Oct 11, 2014

7 Random Pictures

Nate as a little boy. :) How blue his eyes were!!!

The kids doing a science experiment at the motel when we moved. We stayed in this room for several weeks waiting on our house, so we had to do a lot of interesting things to keep the kids occupied.

Kaytie making a Christmas present many years ago.

The girls. My niece took this picture and I love it so much there is a copy of it hanging in our hallway.

My boys and bugs have always been inseparable.

This is Abbie trying to stay dry. We were watching Daniel's soccer game when it started raining.

Daniel dressed like a pirate for halloween several years ago. Doesn't he look fierce? And absolutely adorable?

Oct 4, 2014

Our Week in Photos

Not exactly the highlights of the week, but these are pictures that we took this week.

This is a dog that Daniel and Abbie and I saw in a parking lot. I was entertained by his extreme seriousness. The kids talked to him and said "ooooh" and "ahhh" type things (no, we did not go near the car) but he would look the other way very deliberately. It was obviously insulting to him to be called "cute" and spoken to familiarly by a small child.

This guy we found crawling across the yard. He looked cranky, so, even though we were pretty sure he was just a box turtle, we didn't let the kids hold him and soon released him to lurk in the shrubbery and (hopefully) eat mosquitos. 

This picture I found on my phone. I don't know which kid snapped the shot, but it's proof that even though we don't always get to "official" Nature Study my kids are always studying nature! I don't know what this is, but I'm sure that whichever kid it was has looked it up and could tell you more than you ever wanted to know about it!

This is another one I found on my phone. I'm calling it The Dreaded Jungle Basset in the wild... a study in black and white.

This is Nate's science experiment this week. He is supposed to document his experiments, but I don't know why he took a picture of the instructions...

And finally, this is Daniel's walking stick bug craft that he made at co-op this week.

Sep 30, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Fix It! Grammar

We have been homeschooling several years now, and we have used a lot of different products. We have dealt with plenty of companies that peddle their wares to folks like us. In our years of experience there have been a couple of companies that just flat out impress me. Companies that I would have no hesitation in recommending any one of their products. I feel strongly about these companies because I know they only offers products of the highest caliber and that the company has demonstrated their dedication to treating customers right! The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is one such company. I have been blessed in the past to review their writing curriculum. Their PAL curriculum is what we used to finally teach my younger two kids to read!

Because of my excellent experience with IEW I was thrilled to be asked to review their Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] with my two older kids, Kaytie and Nate. There are six levels to the "Fix It! Grammar" series aimed at 3rd graders and up. We were given level 1 to explore.
We received a Teacher's Manual ($19) and a Student Book ($15). First off I want to tell you my favorite thing about IEW: I am free to make all the copies of the Student Book that I want (as long as it is for my own family). Also, in the TM, there is a link to where you can download the Student Book. That means that I can simply print off whatever copies I need for both kids and get clear, perfect sheets with a minimum of fuss. I LOVED this feature! But that wasn't all I loved.

Kaytie and Nate have used other grammar programs before with little success. And we have yet to find a single one that they enjoyed doing or that actually helped them retain any information. This being the case we started with the very first book, even though they are fifth and sixth graders and The Nose Tree is targeted for kids as young as 3rd grade. IEW also provides a placement test so you can determine where to start with your student. You can check out the scope and sequence of The Nose Tree  at the bottom of this PDF.

The TM starts off by explaining their incredibly simple process. After that the lessons are laid out just like in the kids book except with the answers marked. This makes checking your kid's work is fast and easy. It contains some notes that give the teacher a head's up on what to look out for and things you might need to remind your student about. Advanced concepts that you can choose to discuss with your kids are also highlighted. In the back of the book there is a chart that shows the scope and sequence of the program as well as a glossary of the elements and rules of grammar. Here is what Week 5 looks like in my TM for level 1.

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The Student Book includes the teacher's script so the kids can read along. Then, of course, it has the lessons. This consists of a sentence to be marked by the student. In the back of the book there is a copy of the glossary that is in the TM. Also included in the back of the book are grammar cards. These cards are printed on cardstock and are intended be cut out of the book. They have the rules, parts of speech, and other concepts printed on them and are to be used for review and reference by the student. The TM tells you when to give each new card to the student.

The lessons are divided into 33 weeks with 4 days of work in each week. I liked this setup because we only have school four days a week. Each lesson introduces a new grammar concept (or two or three), starting with nouns, homophones, and end marks. There is a short passage for the teacher to read that explains each concept. After you read through the information, you and/or the kids read the sentence. There is one sentence for each day. In each sentence, there is a vocabulary word in bold type. The kids are supposed to look these words up in the dictionary and choose which definition best fits the meaning of the word used in their sentence. Then, they mark up the sentence, writing "n" above the nouns, "ar" above the articles, and so forth. They are also required to add in any left out punctuation. They are only responsible for the concepts they have been taught. However, after each lesson they are responsible for all the concepts they have learned to that point. For example they start marking nouns in Week 1 and they are still marking the nouns in Week 33. This gives them built-in review so I have no fear that they will forget what a noun is! After 33 weeks of looking, surely they will be able to find one in a sentence! After they mark up their sentence, they copy it on to a separate piece of paper. Then they are done for the day. The instructions say this should take you no more than 15 minutes. I think it took us less than 10.

Here's a peek at Kaytie's page as she worked on it today. I like that everything they are supposed to be looking for is printed at the top of their page for a handy reference, This will be even nicer as they add more concepts to mark so they don't get all those symbols mixed up!

I can't say enough how much I love "Fix It! Grammar"!! I love that for me, the teacher, it's open and go. I don't have to do anything ahead of time except print out their work sheets. I love that it's scripted and that the script is simple and easy to follow. I love the way review is built in to the lesson. I love that the sentences are not made up, contrived exercises but are taken from a real story that engaged my kids' interest. I love that it only takes 15 minutes out of our school day. I love that my kids don't whine about doing it but actually enjoy it. In fact...

On the first day, we sat down to do grammar and Nate groaned. "Oh no! Not grammar! Why do we have to do grammar? I hate grammar!" I assured him that we were going to do it anyway, and we got started. When I closed the book and said, "Ok, that's all, we're done!" Nate said, "What? Done? Already? I don't want to be done! Can we do the next lesson? I love this!"

After weeks of working on Fix It! Grammar, this is their opinion:

Kaytie: I like how it follows the lines of a story. I like how we get to fix it. I'm excited to see what happens next in the story. And I can't wait till we get to a new level so I get to see what the new story is! 

Nate: Well, it's fun. It's easy to do. It teaches me a LOT! I like copying it and finding out what the vocabulary word means and fixing the sentences. There's not much I don't like about it. It's just really, really, GOOD!

Just keep in mind that Nate is allergic to writing of any kind, so for him to say that he likes copying it is a Really Big Deal! It makes me so happy that I have found a grammar that my kids enjoy, look forward to, and learn from! And I will declare here and now that Fix It! Grammar is now our family's grammar of choice. This is what we will be using from now till the end of the series.

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Sep 27, 2014


It's a beautiful day to play soccer!


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